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  • Diane
    replied
    I found this this morning on Mindblog: Deric off to Magic and Consciousness in Las Vegas - ASSC meeting

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    This thread generated from Ian and Diane a look at the book The Man Who Was Magic: A Fable of Innocence and as it happens, I found a copy of it in the Cuyahoga Falls Library. As I read it this week I think I can find some parallels relevant to this and that other thread. Aside from traveling to teach in Michigan this week I’ve apparently got not much else to do.

    In the meantime, I came across this old essay titled The Presence of Magic that I’d forgotten I’d written. It reminded me of how long I’ve been thinking about this stuff however.

    In the essay I describe a patient wearing a copper bracelet for his arthritis. I say, There's no credible evidence that some combination of copper and epidermal tissue at the right wrist would relieve the pain secondary to mechanical deformation in the left wrist, but I'm not going to tell anybody that they don't feel better when they say that they do.

    I'm offering here another explanation; the presence of magic. By this I mean the perfectly human tendency to look for and gaze at the mysterious and seemingly unexplainable. It is not the magician's job to fool us, but to fascinate us. We will remain altered by a magical effect only until we see it explained. At that point, something immeasurable is lost, and we begin looking elsewhere for another bit of mystery.


    I see that my view and my way of explaining it has changed just a bit, but not much, and I wrote this at least ten years ago.

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    Magical Thinking

    I wrote an essay years ago that has proven very popular, that is, if the numbers on my web counter mean anything. It was titled Magical Thinking.

    Like a lot of people, including many therapists, I like what is called “magical thinking (MT).” This term has no strict definition but it typically operates according to a few basic principles, among them belief in forces aside from the four known to exist, mystical power existing in all things to various degrees, symbols and some kind of cosmic connection between things that appear similar (think homeopathy). There’s more of course, but these are enough to keep me busy. I’m sure that my appreciation for Star Trek comes from the same source in my head and I know I was born this way because I can’t recall either of my parents or any teacher ever encouraging me to worry about other worlds or lose myself in the technical aspects of time travel. But this is fun for me, and I’m not entirely certain that it doesn’t help me be a better therapist, though why that is can be a little complicated.

    I’m not sure I made it in that recent post, but this is my point: Liking magic and understanding it are not mutually exclusive. To me, nature’s laws provide enough to wonder about – I need nothing more.

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    One more thing.

    This thread will get 100 views in the next 24 hours and I'd love to have some of the many visiting look at this thread as well and let me know what you think.

    Thanks.

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    Consciousness Is Not a Power Moonroof

    I read something in I Am Strange Loop today after looking in the index for the word “magic” that I feel fits here. I plan on duplicating this entry in the Therapy’s Strange Loop thread.

    The passage begins under the heading “Consciousness Is Not a Power Moonroof” and concerns the fact that this thing we experience as consciousness is a result of our brain power, not an “add on” that we can purchase separately once the thing that contains it is in our possession. In other words, it’s not a moonroof on a car. As Hofstadter puts it: Consciousness is not an add-on option…it is an inevitable emergent consequence of the fact that the system has a sufficiently sufficient repertoire of categories. The strange loop of selfhood will automatically arise in any sufficiently sophisticated system, and once you’ve got self, you’ve got consciousness – NOTHING ELSE IS NEEDED. (emphasis mine)

    This is where magic comes in. As Arthur Clark so powerfully states at the top of this thread “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” As Hofstadter goes on to point out in a variety of ways, a belief in something that something over and above physical law is necessary to explain that which can’t be explained according to our current knowledge is fraught with all sorts of difficulty, not the least of which are the illogical conclusions we must eventually draw.

    Understanding this, the manual magician simply doesn’t go there. Instead, a therapist of this sort will prepare explanations that do not require belief and are in compliance with what is known presently. Of course, therapists and patients don’t necessarily want this, anxious to be deceived as they tend to be.

    We must give it to them anyway.
    Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 13-06-2007, 03:15 PM.

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    Natural Movement and Manual Magic

    Ricky Jay’s grandfather would often take him to magical performances and was especially mindful of Dai Vernon, a man spoken of several times previously in this thread. Vernon’s nickname was “The Professor.”

    "When we watched Vernon, my grandfather would say, `Look at the Professor and study the naturalness with which he handles objects.' From The New Yorker

    The word “natural” is essentially meaningless when it comes to medicine though it has been foisted repeatedly upon a public unwilling, it seems, to think much. But when this word is applied to movement it acquires some meaning. I equate “natural” with “instinctive” and recognized long ago that culturally encouraged motion was commonly “unnatural” in the extreme.

    A stage magician feigns naturalness in order to hide the machinations of his skill and this becomes part of the secret he seeks to keep from his audience. Conversely, the manual magician hides nothing and their movement toward and with the patient appears natural for a simple reason – it is.

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    Manual Magic and Malini's Manner

    Ricky Jay is especially respectful of the career carved out by Max Malini. A fascinating portrait of this man can be found here.

    From the New Yorker: “Malini was the embodiment of what a magician should be-not a performer who requires a fully equipped stage, elaborate apparatus, elephants, or handcuffs to accomplish his mysteries, but one who can stand a few inches from you and with a borrowed coin, a lemon, a knife, a tumbler, or a pack of cards convince you he performs miracles."

    Malini didn’t just possess a certain skill – he was certain of his skill. He knew that those he communicated with (up close) in his special and well-practiced way would respond as he expected and that whatever happened after The Pledge (an ordinary object or circumstance) and The Turn (an extraordinary happenstance) would be experienced as The Prestige. (See previous posts for elaboration on each of these)

    I make it clear that everybody in the class will possess enough understanding and skill to do what I do before we break for lunch, and that turns out to be true. But what they lack is the audacity that a magician like Malini came to express with such ease. However, I’m convinced that a little practice with manual magic will lead to this sort of self-assurance quite naturally.
    Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 04-06-2007, 03:12 AM.

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    Diane,

    That’s the perfect link for this thread.

    I used the phrase Simple Contact many years ago after I read the passage from Brook’s Sensory Awareness featured in this essay on my site. People still tell me that the word “simple” is what drew them to my workshop. This article implies that I’ve got it backwards when it comes to sales however.

    Theoretically, what I need to do is promise an astoundingly complex but learnable method that will take years to perfect yet yield amazing results immediately. In this way therapists will be privy to remarkable information unattainable except from me yet will be empowered somehow to out-perform their colleagues in no time at all.

    Instead, I make it clear that the method itself is easily employed (just a few features) though understanding it might take a while.

    I’m screwed.

    Meanwhile, the concept on manual magic is nicely described in this passage from the New Yorker article: When Ricky is doing one of his poetical pieces, he's working in his own unique venue. He's mixing disparate things-quirky scholarship, iconoclasm, technique, a good story-into some soup that works. Because he picks good, strong tricks and makes them come to life, in the end there's this basic simplicity about what he does. Before Ricky came along, there had been comedy magicians, but never ones who really fooled people.

    Of course, I’m not trying to fool anybody, but the comedy sometimes works.
    Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 02-06-2007, 07:46 PM.

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  • Diane
    replied
    This could be why participants give up early: Feature Creep (a link from Deric Bownds' Mindblog.)

    Maybe PTs can't quite grasp the inverse of this, feature de-materialization.

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    Throwing cards in the classroom

    About Ricky Jay’s card throwing:
    A properly launched card would go ninety miles an hour. Unobstructed, it could travel a hundred and ninety feet. From ten paces, it could pierce the outer rind of a watermelon.

    I’m still working on this. What I’ve discovered (after thousands of throws) is that of the two basic elements, the grip and the release, is that the latter is by far the more important. I’ve seen demonstrated several variations on the grip but eventually came up with my own (I’m sure my Dupuytren’s contracture has something to do with this). But I’m pretty sure the release is pretty much the same for every successful throw. When I teach juggling I point out that it is in letting go of the prop that we face our greatest fear and that this when we make most of our errors. Compared to this, catching is easy.

    Similarly, when a therapist seeks to perform manual magic they have to learn to overcome their fear of letting the patient go rather than guiding them in some manner. This comes easily to some and not to others. Perhaps I need to throw a few cards to the back of the room in order to demonstrate this. It will also become a lesson in how force and strength are unnecessary in order to accomplish something quite impressive.
    Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 02-06-2007, 05:12 PM.

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    The World Wants To Be Deceived

    I found this in the MFR thread, posted originally by Nick Matheson and attributed to Walter Kaufman who I’m pretty sure is this guy.

    "Mundus vult decipi: the world wants to be deceived. The truth is too complex and frightening; the taste for the truth is an acquired taste that few people acquire. (In fact), there is a hierarchy of deceptions. On a higher level we find fictions that men eagerly believe, regardless of the evidence, because they gratify some wish. Near the top of the ladder we encounter curious mixtures of untruth and truth that exert a lasting fascination on the intellectual community.”

    This fits well with "The magical aspect of Ricky Jay is very strong," Diaconis says. "It's one thing to see someone who is very skillful with cards and quite another to witness an effect and have just no idea what happens. With Ricky, it's very hard to isolate technique from performance. I can sense when a sleight has happened and how it happened, but I still don't see it. I just feel it intellectually.” (from The New Yorker)

    Often when therapists watch me employ Simple Contact they strain forward, looking for “the trick” to handling. Seeing nothing, they lean back again, quietly. I explain that the subsequent ideomotion they see emerges because my understanding has changed the context, and though many seem to “get” this, most dismiss it as a practical matter as soon as class is over. I imagine them saying to their colleagues, “It was interesting, I think it might be useful. I can’t imagine ever actually doing this though.”

    They feel it intellectually, but the magic escapes them.

    Remember: The world wants to be deceived.

    Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 02-06-2007, 03:33 AM.

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    The Importance of Understanding

    So, what’s important? The manner? The “secret”? The technique?

    When asked these days about the relation between my work and the “unwinding” taught in the Barnes’ MFR courses or “somato-emotional release” promoted by Upledger I always begin by visibly shuddering at the mere mention of these things. This is part comedy and part warning. I don’t want to be associated with either of these methods; not even in the same sentence. If you’re wondering why, read through the Myofascial Release; The Great Conversation thread. It won’t take you long to appreciate my objection to this so-called therapy.

    Then I say, “The most important aspect of the patient/therapist interaction is the understanding of the therapist. Understanding, which implies defendable theory, precedes appropriate care and a progression toward ever more effective and safe practice. (everybody nods) These people do not understand what they’re doing nor can they describe the patient’s response with an explanation that approaches reality.” In response these days I get nothing but silence. Oh, there is the occasional whiny, “Yea but it helps,” from someone who has forgotten what I’ve already said about how useless it is to justify what you do in this manner.

    In short, what is of primary importance is understanding.

    From the perspective of the manual magician, I see this issue as it is spoken of in the New Yorker article:

    One guy in a tuxedo producing doves can be magic, ten guys producing doves is a travesty. "Ricky won't perform for magicians at magic shows, because they're interested in things," Weber says. "They don't get it. They won't watch him and be inspired to make magic of their own. They'll be inspired to do that trick that belongs to Ricky. Magic is not about someone else sharing the newest secret. Magic is about working hard to discover a secret and making something out of it. You start with some small principle and you build a theatrical presentation out of it. You do something that's technically artistic that creates a small drama. There are two ways you can expand your knowledge-through books and by gaining the confidence of fellow-magicians who will explain these things.

    I found myself focusing upon the words “…working hard to discover a secret and making something out of it.” Manual magicians certainly do this, but they differ from the stage magician in a significant way – they don’t keep the secret, well, secret. They tell the patient what’s going on, the patient’s family, and, most importantly, they tell other would-be manual magicians about it without hesitation. And, if possible, without demanding a fee, or, better yet, a series of fees.

    Does that sound like Barnes or Upledger to you?
    Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 01-06-2007, 06:18 PM.

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    The Magician's Manner

    The manner of the manual magician is, I think, every bit as important as their technique, though it doesn’t trump their knowledge. Nothing is more important than that. My own manner has matured, of course, and what I’ve included here sounds familiar to me.

    Below are a few words from the article’s author and the comedian/actor/novelist Steve Martin. I truly admire this man’s mind.

    He has a skeptically friendly, mildly ironic conversational manner and a droll, filigreed prose style (and) he quotes Vernon's belief that "cards are like living, breathing human beings and should be treated accordingly."

    The actor Steve Martin said not long ago, "I sort of think of Ricky as the intellectual Èlite of magicians. I've had experience with magicians my whole life. He's expertly able to perform and yet he knows the theory, history, literature of the field. Ricky's a master of his craft. You know how there are those teachers of creative writing who can't necessarily write but can teach? Well, Ricky can actually do everything."


    I was especially struck by Vernon’s description of cards as “living things.” These practitioners of ordinary magic don’t have the advantage the manual magician has. We work with animated objects capable of performing alone, and, in fact, are able to learn how to continue without us.

    You could never say this about an ordinary magician’s props - even Rick Jay’s.

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  • Barrett Dorko
    replied
    Diane,

    It is. Thanks for the link

    I haven’t forgotten this thread and, believe it or not, I’ve some additional ideas about manual magic and what its application might imply, not only about the nature of gentle handling (a hallmark of Simple Contact) but about the sort of therapist willing to employ this as their primary manual modality.

    I came across a long article about Ricky Jay, today’s pre-eminent sleight of hand magician and a notable thrower of cards. I work on this regularly myself, often at lunch in the large rooms assigned my workshops. I’m getting better.

    Jay is a markedly eccentric fellow and in the article titled Secrets of the Magus by Mark Singer in the New Yorker Magazine (1993) you’ll see just how eccentric. I’ve chosen a few quotes from this portrait and intend to use them to explore manual magic further.

    Let’s start with this:

    Referring to an interview with David Mamet -Having directed Jay now in three films-and they are collaborating on the screenplay of another-Mamet holds him in high esteem as an actor. "Ricky's terrific," Mamet said. "He doesn't make anything up. He knows the difference between doing things and not doing things. The magician performs a task and the illusion is created in the mind of the audience. And that's what acting is about."

    The difference between doing and not doing is the main thing I teach when it comes to actual technique, or, as Jay believes, “The most uplifting magic has a spontaneous, improvisational vigor.”

    Spontaneous and improvisational - sounds like manual magic to me.

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  • Diane
    replied
    Barrett, you referred to someone named Sachs on some thread lately. Is this who you meant?

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